Digital World: Shaping up Perceptions

The millenial generation isn’t just consumers of digital content, they are also its creators, writes Akshay Mishra and wonders whether 21st century organizations are equipped to cater to them.

American futurist, Paul Saffo reckons that there are three fundamental human desires: to be of use, to tell stories and collect stuff. Today’s digital age with its social media and its paraphernalia, interestingly meets all three above mentioned desires: online recommendations and tags help others thus being useful; blogs and social networks tell stories and experiences can be collected in online metaverses.

The driving force behind the growth of social media is human interactions. Unlike the traditional media or even the earlier era of the internet wherein the user was purely a consumer of content or of services offered online, the social media has turned the consumer into a creator and often the product itself.

For the first time in human history, the consumer is the product and platform leverages it to attract more consumers and its moolah. Fueling the growth of such a shift in media and social interactions is the ‘Millennial’ generation. Millennials, a generation that came into existence as demographic cohort following Generation X in late 1990s and early 2000s are the gatekeepers of this new technology. A computer geek living in Silicon Valley might write new code, develop new software or invent a new piece of kit but it is these millennials who adapt, alter, reorient and rearrange it for multiple uses and according to their needs. This generation is more than just consumers of digital content, they are also its creators.

Therefore, the way they interact with technology is also significantly different. The millennials leverage technology to redefine almost every facet of human interactions and relationships. They have felt and framed relationships which are cyber mediated and are known by digital teknonymy i.e. facebook friend, twitter acquaintance, or just a familiar face on Instagram. This in turn makes virtual life more social than the physical life.



This is also arguably the first generation to use technology to facilitate communication, to spawn creativity and to air political and newer views on a grand scale. Surrounded by technology in all possible domains of life – from entertainment to studies and from shopping to socializing, they have been raised up by feeding on a digital diet of gadgets and applications and have developed an ease to access and enable life that may entirely lived in the virtual world.

In fact, it begins at birth. The millennials were born to smaller families wherein folklores and tales of wonderland were no more narrated by grandmothers. Their tutors were the tablets and touch phones that turned myths, stories and characters into 3D avatars rendered in a tech-fed world, wherein individual attention is controlled by motion, lights and animation. Change was immediate and available at finger-tips, impermanence was valued and icons spoke more than words.

As the millennial generation – those schooled in the new century – enter adulthood and turn into consumers, workers and leaders, the implications for companies, organizations and society can be vast. What does change mean to a generation that is distinctly uncomfortable with the lack of change? What does identity mean to a generation wherein each one of them have lived multiple identities in the virtual world, before they turned eighteen? In fact multiplicity of life – whether in identities, roles, passions, and professions is the way of life for this generation. What does security mean for a generation that isn’t threatened by the old, but those who are younger to them? Brands, workplaces and ideologies that hope to attract tomorrow’s citizens need to find answers to these questions

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